CLEVELAND – Browns rookie running back Trent Richardson is sore after taking a Bengals' helmet to the ribs.
However, his pain has been numbed by pleasure.
Richardson was limited Sunday after he was injured in the first quarter, but the Cleveland Browns overcame the loss of their top offensive player with a 34-24 win over Cincinnati to snap 11-game losing streak that stretched back to last November.
Richardson finished with just 37 yards on 14 carries and spent most of the second half on the sideline. But Richardson's backup, Montario Hardesty, picked up the slack and rushed for 56 yards and scored his first touchdown in the NFL as the Browns (1-5) also snapped a 12-game losing streak inside the AFC North.
"I took a shot, but I'll be back," said Richardson. "I'll be ready for next week."
The Browns had formulated their game plan to feature Richardson, who had rushed for 109 yards and scored two TDs against the Bengals (3-3) when the teams played last month in Cincinnati. But after Richardson got thumped in the first quarter, the Browns turned to Hardesty, who had barely gotten on the field in Cleveland's first five games this season and has been slowed by injuries for several years.
But Hardesty came through with Richardson cheering on his teammate. Hardest hit the holes when they were there and made something when it didn't appear there was any room to run.
"You've got to love it," Richardson said. "Montario, he is a beast. A lot of people think Montario is one of those guys that is not going to try to run you over or not going to be in there for the thick and thin, but Montario is one of those guys who is going to give everything he can on each and every play."
Richardson expects to be back next Sunday to face the Colts, but if he can't go the Browns now know they can trust Hardesty, who was plagued by fumbling problems during the exhibition season.
"He did a good job," Browns coach Pat Shurmur said of Hardesty. "I'm happy for him."
Big things were expected of Hardesty, who was drafted in the second round in 2010 after the Browns traded three draft picks to Philadelphia to move up and select the former Tennessee runner. But he missed his entire rookie season with a knee injury and made only four starts in 2011.
Hardesty dived over the pile from the 1-yard line on the first play of the fourth quarter to give Cleveland a 20-14 lead. It was Hardesty's first career TD and it came just in time to help the Browns.
"I just knew to always be ready," he said. "I was glad I was able to get in there and help our team get a 'W' because we needed that."